Scissors dance

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): Peru



Scissors dance

The scissors dance is performed by inhabitants of Quechua villages and communities in the south-central Andes of Peru, and now in urban settings. This competitive ritual dance is performed during dry months coinciding with the main phases of the agricultural calendar. The scissors dance takes its name from the pair of polished iron rods, resembling scissors blades, wielded by each dancer in his right hand. Together with a violinist and a harpist, a dancer forms a cuadrilla (team) that represents a given village or community. To perform, two or more cuadrillas face each other, and the dancers must strike the blades together in time to the rhythm of the accompanying musicians, while performing a choreographed duel of step-dancing, acrobatics and increasingly demanding movements. The competition or atipanakuy may last up to ten hours, and physical ability, quality of the instruments, and expertise of the accompanying musicians, are all evaluated to determine the winner. The dancers wear outfits embroidered with golden fringes, multicoloured sequins and small mirrors, but while in costume are forbidden from entering churches because of the tradition that their abilities are the result of a pact with the devil. Regardless, the scissors dance has become a popular part of Catholic festivities. The physical and spiritual knowledge implicit in the dance is passed on orally from master to student, with each cuadrilla of dancers and musicians giving pride to its village of origin.


Decision 5.COM 6.35

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: The scissors dance is a ritual performance, transmitted from master to student, that has become a symbol of the cultural identity of the people of the Peruvian Andes and maintains its meaning and social functions even when displaced to urban settings;
  • R.2: Inscription of the scissors dance on the Representative List could contribute to the visibility of intangible cultural heritage while stimulating intercultural dialogue and promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity;
  • R.3: Safeguarding measures to be undertaken by the communities and the State aim at research, recognizing tradition bearers, and creating a cultural centre that would function as archive, museum and civic space for encounters;
  • R.4: The scissors dancers, through the Asociación de Danzantes de Tijeras y Musicos del Peru and the Asociación Folklórica de Danzantes de Tijeras y Musicos de Huancavelica, initiated the nomination and participated actively in its preparation, providing their free, prior and informed consent;
  • R.5: The scissors dance was declared National Cultural Heritage by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura in 2005, upon the proposal of the communities concerned.